Notes and Editorial Reviews
Round three, and Paul Lewis's eloquent and persuasive cycle still enthrals
Paul Lewis’s third and penultimate volume of his Beethoven sonata cycle once more shows him playing down all possible roughness and angularity in favour of a richly humane and predominantly lyrical beauty. And if, like Vladimir Ashkenazy, he believes that today we are music’s servants rather than its masters, I can only say that he is both master and servant. Again, here is nothing of that glossy, impersonal sheen beloved of too many young pianists, but a subtly nuanced perception beneath an immaculate surface.
His technique, honed on many ultra-demanding areas of
the repertoire (how well I remember his unfaltering mastery in Balakirev’s Islamey sadly bypassed by my jury colleagues at an international competition several years ago) allows him an imaginative and poetic latitude only given to a musical elite. Telescoped phrasing, rapid scrambles for security, waywardness and pedantry (the hallmarks of many celebrated recordings of the sonatas) he gladly leaves to others, firmly but gently guiding you to the very heart of the composer. His Appassionata is characterised by muted gunfire, as if the sonata’s warlike elements were heard from a distance. Yet the lucidity with which he views such violence easily makes others’ more rampant virtuosity become sound and fury, signifying little. His way, too, with the teasing toccata-like finales of Opp 26 and 54 is typical of his lyrical restraint, a far cry, indeed, from a more overt brilliance. How superbly he captures Beethoven’s over-the-shoulder glance at Haydn, his great predecessor, yet gives you all of his forward-looking Romanticism in the early F minor Sonata. Again, how many pianists could achieve such unfaltering poise and sensitivity in Op 7’s Largo, con gran espressione?
These performances are a transparent act of musical love and devotion. Nothing is exaggerated yet virtually everything is included. Of all the modern versions of the sonatas (and there are many either complete or in progress), Lewis’s is surely the most eloquent and persuasive. And, as in previous issues, Harmonia Mundi’s sound is of demonstration quality, making you eagerly await the final issue, duenext spring.
-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone [11/2007]
Also Available: Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas Vol 1 / Paul Lewis
Lewis’s unalloyed musicianship and overall mastery are worth their weight in gold; every bar declares his calibre and generosity of spirit. -- GRAMOPHONE
Also Available: Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas Vol 2 / Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis’s superbly recorded and presented Beethoven may well turn out to be the most musicianly and ultimately satisfying of all recorded Beethoven piano sonata cycles. -- GRAMOPHONE
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